September is one of my favorite months. The sockeye salmon signal the autumn season as they come into the Chilko River to spawn and lay millions of eggs. This is the fall feast for fish, wildlife, and everything under the Chilko sun.
This last fall I wanted to experience the joy of catching a trout on a dry fly, before the trout started to feed on the sockeye salmon eggs.
My niece Jerica was visiting for a couple of weeks. We wanted to spend some time together so I grabbed a fly rod and we headed down to the dock, jumped into one of the jet boats, and putted up the river. There wasn’t any hurry…I just like watching the eagles, maybe there is a bear about. The sockeye are splashing all over the place, it’s a beautiful sunny day, and it is so nice to be out on the river fly fishing with my niece.
We continue to putt up to the beginning of the run and I shut off the motor. I get my fly rod ready and cast out a line. I am using a great big fuzzy, ugly fly with a black body, a white spot on its head and big brown wings. I have high hopes that it will entice a rainbow to come up from all of those tasty salmon eggs.
We float along, chatting away, deep, rich conversations of life and love, and all the funny things in between. It was so beautiful out, blue skies, golden leaves, and the river shifting between shades of blues and greens. I always find the river so soothing, watching the colors change, the thousands of red sockeye lazily swaying in the current, stacked up against the ledges, hearing them splash away and enjoying the warmth of the sun on my back. It is so quiet, but so rich in sounds and life. I love it.
We are slowly drifting down the river and I decide to cast one last time before starting up the motor to avoid drifting into the rocks. I strip in my line and recast. My fly is floating perfect, all perky and fat, a nice mouthful for a trout. All of a sudden I see this big silver belly roll over my fly and it disappears. The next thing my line is heading straight up the river. He is moving fast, the reel is zinging, and the line is burning my fingers. I say to Jerica “fricking A , it’s a sockeye and he’s taking all my line”. He’s moving and moving fast, and he just keeps going and going. The line is to the backing and I’m thinking here goes all of my fly line! Just at the point it’s going to snap, the fish stops…..I am so surprised. For a second he just kind of sits there. I can feel him on the line, he’s big and he’s heavy. I don’t want to strip the line, he’s too big and I am afraid the leader will snap. So very carefully I start to reel him in. He’s weaving towards the other side of the Chilko River, but slowly he gets closer and closer…! Then, he decides he has had enough of this and runs for it again. He explodes from the river, a silver flash, a perfect arch, and a flick of his tail. He disappears, and then jumps, and jumps again. “Oh my gosh this isn’t a sockeye, its one big beautiful trout” I am so excited! It’s like the world’s best trout movie, just perfect, and then he runs for it again…I am standing on the bow of the boat and I keep holding on…
During this time I haven’t paid any attention to the boat. It is rapidly approaching a rock “Jerica, quick you have to row the boat” Jerica says” I can’t oar the boat” “Jerica you have too! I don’t want to lose this fish, just miss the rock and row us into the bay”! You can do it!” so Jerica picks up the oars and gets a thirty second “ How to row a boat lesson.” Meanwhile she is mumbling under her breath about rowing a boat. She quickly gets the hang of it, misses the rock, and saves the boat.
Now we are quickly heading for the dock, but we are going to miss the bay. Calm flowing waters quickly become a fast strong current, especially when you are about to plough into your dock. At this point I have already decided that I am not losing this fish, even at the cost of my dock and jet!!
Jerica’s partner Oliver is standing on the dock. Just at the point we are going to crash into the drift boat, he jumps into the drift boat, grabs the jet boat and saves the day….We are all yelling and laughing and with the boats and the big fish, it is all pretty exciting. I do not want to lose this fish. I jump from the jet, to the drift boat, to the dock and slowly work the trout into quieter waters where I can let him go… Now we get to fully see up close the beauty of this trout and he is magnificent…he is what every fly fisher dreams of as the “perfect bow”, beautiful colors, perfect health, and just one super magnificent trout.
This fly fishing adventure is the best kind, completely unexpected, exciting, pure joy and so much fun. At the end of it I released this beauty back into the river so hopefully he can produce more beauties just like him. Lucky me and lucky trout…
Carpe iridia (Karen’s version of Seize the Rainbow)
PS if you come to the lodge you can see the video of this beauty!